Gather around the computer screen for Uncle Sickness' philosophy lesson, folks.
French philosopher Jean Baudrillard talks about this sort of effect in depth in his book "Simulacra, and Simulation" (movie tie-in: it's the book Neo has his computer disks hidden in during the first Matrix movie) - there, he argues that significant cultural forces (he used the example of the early labor movement) lead those who feel powerless or outside of history, to adopt symbolic connections to those forces. Powerful images of working-class labor movement activists in worn, ripped denim inspired disaffected, bored upper and middle class people to adopt "simulacra" (imitations) of their style of dress as a way of feeling connected to something significant. For Baudrillard, a "simulacra" was produced when the copying was at least attempting to be faithful to the original - its trying to be a faithful imitation. Particularly, he noted how simulacra would themselves devolve to what he called "simulations" - where things were completely detached from the original. For example, denim so ripped and tatered that a laborer would find it dangerous to work in.
While I'm not particularly fond of his work, it has often struck me how there is something to this, it would seem. For example, its fashionable recently for real camo patterns to be used on non-military garments (simulacra), and also camo patterns in color schemes that provide no ability to provide concealment (simulation).
So too, the "battleworn" painting effect so often seen in firearms since .. well, the effect we see recently is the emergence of a new simulacra. I haven't yet figured out what the simulation would be .. perhaps painting guns to look like they are made of wood, or Legos or something.
All this to say .. Baudrillard's main thesis boils down to "les gens sont étranges" - or "people are strange."
But, I will admit to liking the look of some wear on many of my guns myself.
Own: HK91, SP5k, G36k, HK416, P30L, 2x P8, P8A1, USP SD, USP9, USP9 FDE
Future: SP5? Assuming I can find an honest seller.